Political Funding Reforms: This Government is Not SeriousBuoyed by the lack of corruption in the upper echelons of this NDA government, one was expecting that it will bring about transparency in political funding and election spending, the two most opaque things that lead to corruption and worse. When Arun Jaitley had reduced the amount of cash political parties could receive as donation from a single source in his 2017 budget proposals, one was further enthused that more important reforms would be undertaken in due course.
By Sunil Garodia
But belying all hopes, Jaitley has introduced an amendment in his budget proposals that will make donations even more opaque. Hitherto, companies could donate up to 7.5% of their average net profits in the three immediately preceding years to one or more political parties. By proposing an amendment to the Companies Act, 2013, the finance minister seeks to withdraw the cap and the restriction.
Further, what troubles more is that companies will no longer be obliged to disclose the name of the political party to which they have made the donation. This will lead to big corruption as ruling parties can ask for donation to party funds (not needed to be disclosed and hence untraceable) in return for bestowing favours like licenses to companies.
Also, since funding through Election Bonds can be done without disclosing the names, companies should be barred from purchasing more than a certain amount of Bonds every year. In their case, it should be mandatory to disclose the name of the party to whom they paid through such Bonds. Ideally, it will be better if the Election Bond route is kept open only for individuals or non-corporate entities.
The intention of reforming political funding is to smash the cosy nexus between political parties and big business. This amendment is going to achieve the opposite. Hence, it should be withdrawn immediately. Some experts have pointed out that the section in the Companies Act could have been deleted inadvertently. If it is indeed so, it should be restored without delay. It is fine if the government wishes to remove the cap, but disclosure norms should stay.